Tag Archives: emotions

Be True to Love

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Over a month has past since I’ve been here, but for me no time has passed at all in some senses. The weekend of Bashir’s nikkah was life-changing for me, in more ways than I could begin to describe. Since then, I have been faced with undeniable truths about myself, life, divine decree, and the purpose of our existence in ways I could never have imagined before. It seems as though that dua I made to be shown how to live more honestly was answered in the fullest way possible.

When I asked Bashir to give me a divorce, I believed I was doing the right thing. I was looking at the situation logically, and shoving all emotions and attachments aside. I saw black, and I saw white, and I thought that’s all I needed to see. I made my decisions out of will and determination, because I believed that making decisions with the heart would sabotage me. I figured I could let my heart get with the program in its own time, as long as I kept focus on the direction I had set for myself.

Even when I found out Bashir had moved on to someone else, I tried to pack up my wounded pride and keep moving forward. I took it as a test of my resolve and gritted myself to make it through the blizzard. But when I found out he had actually married her, I was snapped back to the resonating truth that I had never, ever stopped loving him.

Not for one second.

I realized that I did not love Bashir because of what he did or did not do. Or because he failed or succeeded. I loved him because of who I am. I remembered how pure and unconditional my love for him was when we began our marriage. Whatever he gave in return, it sufficed me, because I was fulfilled in being true to who I was- in lavishing him with attention, affection, and obedience.

Obedience. Yes. Something that had slipped through the cracks over the years of our marriage, taking the other qualities with it.

Here I had spent several months parted from him trying to “find myself”, thinking it was about my personality, my roots, my hopes and aspirations. How daunting to see that what I really needed to find was my lost character, that aspect that actually develops us to the maturity needed to enter the next life without empty hands. I had lost sight of my character, my core essence in being a loving, supportive, humble wife and Muslimah.

All of a sudden the past nearly 10 years of our marriage took an entirely different view. Until that time, I saw the years in terms of his failings, his shortcomings, his wrongs toward me. Everything was myopically focused on him-him-him, and the mistakes he made had built up into a mountain I kept between us. I am not saying he didn’t have the responsibility to make certain choices or treat me certain ways. He did. But I saw that instead of encouraging him, being patient with him, actually trying to help him by being appropriately submissive, I rather became increasingly arrogant, harsh, unyielding, controlling and rebellious to his God-given authority. My pride had been blinding me, convincing me that I was blameless and flawless and entitled. I saw how I began treating him in demeaning ways, which probably only made him more inclined to seek solace in his own maladaptive responses. I was only happy when I was in charge, and he was on his belly.

Yes, by the time we had divorced, I cared more about whether he was following my rules about not eating in the bedroom, than how he was feeling with his anxiety attacks. I became entirely ungrateful, and I only saw it when I realized how far I had gotten from just being true to the love I had for him. For so long I had been wrapped up in how he needed to change and improve, while I became a worse and worse person in my adab and taqwah. I had lost sight of the fact that my day of judgment will be for what I did, not what he did.

As all of this clarity flooded me, I knew that I had been dealing with Bashir based on how I saw him as a human, not how Allah saw him. Allah knows Bashir through and through, and Allah knows what Bashir is worth more than I do. I had to consider that perhaps I got it wrong- that idea I had that I was somehow rescuing myself from a “bad person” and that it was only I who deserved happiness and love. Perhaps the magnitude of my arrogance that had grown made me the one who deserved to be alone and drifting as though lost, while Bashir was actually the one Allah saw deserved mercy and promptly provided him a companion and all other means he needed to have a peaceful life. The ayat came to mind:

“It may happen that his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him in your stead wives better than you, submissive (to Allah), believing, pious, penitent, devout, inclined to fasting, widows and maids. “(Quran 66:5) Also, the hadith which says, “They (women) are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good (charitable deeds) done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, ‘I have never received any good from you.” indicates that such women will make up the majority of Hellfire.

I realized what a serious mistake I had made, and how much was truly at stake. All at once I was broken in a way I had never been broken before, and in the recognition of my folly all I wanted was the chance to repent and do it the right way- not the way that would please me or my nafs, but Allah only. I wanted a second chance.

….to be continued….

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10 Day Time Bomb

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Sometimes some of us are given a situation in life that forces us to take a hard look at ourselves, and reluctantly admit that we are not the person we thought we were or had hoped to be. I am at that place.

The past 10 days have been like the rapid-fire sequence of bombs detonating inside my mind and heart. Sure, it may have all began with what I referenced in my last post about my ex husband wanting to remarry, but it recently culminated with his nikkah yesterday. In between those two crazy-making revelations I endured a severe illness which left me completely weak in my body and mind. Ironically, the ex who was causing the great heartache with his choices was also the only person helping me while I was sick, so in the end my emotions and thought processes were left severely short circuited and unreliable.

I admit, finding out there was someone else out there who cared about him, and who he cared about, made me jealous. I would try to salve myself in various ways, but the bottom line is still the same: they are happy with one another. They are happy because they found love and are no longer alone, and I am unhappy because I am alone and don’t foresee any love life in my future. I resented them both for it, and that showed me how pathetic I really am when it all gets boiled down.

It’s been years since I’ve felt jealous of anyone, so I was really caught off guard by how strong it can be, and how compelling. Jealousy wants to tear down the happiness of others, or somehow inject itself in where it doesn’t belong to feed off of what it can’t destroy like a parasite. Jealousy isn’t even satisfied if you give it what it wants, because it has to give up what it has now just to take it….and jealousy never wants to let anything go.

I went through all those reactions about my ex; not just once but multiple times. In fact, I can still feel the burn inside my nafs from where it is still smoldering, like the underground coal fire in Pennsylvania. It feels at times completely out of control, where my emotions have raised a coup with their drive to have my ex husband back for myself…for him to belong to no one else. Yet I know that chasing that idea down would make 3 people miserable in the end, and perhaps two of them (though it’s hard to admit) deserve the chance to find a renewal of happiness with one another. I was wronged by my ex in various ways, but perhaps Allah will be merciful and keep them from wronging each other.

It is a very difficult thing to accept, to move forward from, when I believe as I do that I won’t get any such redemptive chances (in the context of another relationship). All I have is a hard look at how low I can really go when life gets that real. I can only hope that the illness I went through -as severe as it was- served as some sort of expiation to offset the ugliness I’m seeing in myself.

I Will Not Give Up Just Because it Gets Hard

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Last night I came to learn that my ex husband, from whom I’ve only been divorced for a matter of weeks, is making plans to remarry a sister he met online as soon as possible. While I certainly expected him to move on to someone else eventually, I have to admit that the quick turnaround for this stunned me. And there is a part of it that hurt me immensely.

I don’t think I was hurting because I felt like I lost him. No, I already dealt with that idea when I decided to divorce. I knew that giving something up means you have to be OK with it being out of your life for good.

The thing that hurt me was that the whole situation seemed to cheapen the marriage we did have- more specifically, who I was to him. He has a lot of high praise for his new love interest, and he describes her in such a way as to make it seem like I had been nothing more him than a half-hearted wannabe heathen. It made it seem like all the sacrifices I made for him, all the love I offered him, everything I gave no matter what the cost amounted to nothing. And that really hurt, because I know, and Allah knows, I gave 200% to that marriage. In fact, the only thing that gave me comfort in walking away from it was knowing that I could not have possibly done any more than I had. I walked away bled dry; loved out.

And it certainly doesn’t help to watch him go happily forward with someone who cares about him, while I continue to wrestle with the task Allah has set before me of coming to terms with being single for the next X amount of years, and living without that comforting companionship.

So I initially felt crushed, because a part of me believed that though things ended as they did, he would remember me as someone who was extremely loyal, caring, and devoted. Instead, it appeared that someone else can offer more of those things than I did. That stabbed my heart, and made me wonder if all the heartwrenching dedication I freely and abundantly gave him was nothing more than a waste. Thinking of the prices I paid (and made my children pay) in the process, it was unfathomable to me that everything I did for the sole purpose of having someone love me and stay by me, would only end up showing me that the love I was purchasing was not sincere at all. How then will I come to terms with myself, for not having figured that out before now?

I went back over my older blog posts this morning, trying to look at things from other angles. In one of them I wrote “I will not give up just because it gets hard”. That’s what I really need to hang on to right now. This new development, though hard and painful, is not something I’m going to let shake me from the direction I’m trying to go in. After all, all the hard, hard work and sacrifices I am making now, I am doing those for myself. They won’t come back empty, they won’t be for nothing. There’s a blossom in me, a beauty seeking to come out, and I will not let it be hindered even if no one in the world sees it but me.

Yeah, I’ve been through a lot. I’ve taken more than my share of hits, perhaps. In the end, it’s not breaking me but helping to build me…and that’s exactly what is needed right now. When it’s done, I will be me in the fullest and most spectacular of ways. Praise be to Allah.

Jacked In, Jacked Out, Jacked Up

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I didn’t think I would want to write here for a while, but as I lay here in my dark, silent room all I can think about is the pieces of me I feel I left behind. I close my eyes and try to wish myself back to the tiny room where I wrote to the muted strains of an unknown local band, but the stillness here mocks me in return. Racing through my mind are endless scenes burned into my memory…scenes that rose up during my brief evening nap in the form of a shop in Chinatown where I was trying to tell a young man to be patient until he got what he wanted.

In the book I’m currently reading, there are machines someone can “jack” into and enjoy a virtual dream world as though it were real…kind of like the way it happens in The Matrix. I wish there were such a thing I could use now to escape this reality for the few hours I have until I truly have to return to real life and work tomorrow. Even without such a device, I feel so surreal…between my recent experiences in California, reading the plot’s unfolding in the afore-mentioned novel, and enduring complicated emotions that seem to constantly bend like light refracted from an ever-shifting prism, I can’t seem to find a place inside to ground myself. I feel like a part of me is drifting through an alternate reality in a universe I’ve never heard of, while the rest of me stays here to attend to the perfunctory matters at hand.

In my soul, the tide rushes in with feelings of love, dreams of hope, buoys of faith; and recedes with fears fraught by uncertainty, tinges of loneliness, and reluctant discipline. All of it is captured in a bubble of wistfully beautiful memories, re-cast over and over until I feel like I can’t take it anymore. I push myself like this until I must act…but the only action I can take at this point is writing it all out, splaying it before my reclusive conscience.

So with that, allow me to change venues, so that I may complete this bloodletting in an adequate fashion.

Do I Really Have to Go?

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A bittersweet day it has been indeed, being that it was my last one here. Tonight I am solemnly contemplating my return to Atlanta, and as always I wish I didn’t have to go. Indeed, the entire drive back here to LA county I wished I could turn the car around and return to the previous places I’ve visited, and never leave.

I spent most of my morning at Pismo Beach. After departing from San Luis Obispo, I wanted to have some final time to reflect on some things before wrapping this trip up. I pulled off the road and wrapped myself in my black wool abaya, and cautiously walked down to the shore. I listened to music, singing here and there, while I slowly strolled the length of the beach to its rocky cliff walls. The sun glistening off of the dancing waves soothed me, and I thought about how problems in life are often like this: out in the distance, they seem so frightening and overwhelming. They keep coming and coming, like the frothy breakers yards away. Some are so high, it seems as though they only will knock us down when they reach us.

But as the tide races toward shore, those ripples become smaller and smaller, until they are merely a gentle lap upon the sand crowned with glistening white bubbles. The water recedes leaving the beach shimmering like glass, with the sun’s reflection refracting off it like a dazzling laser. The streaks of iron decorate the shoreline like sparkling scars….scars not unlike our own after being tested.

I ended up staying out on the beach for about two hours. As I walked back to the car after praying dhuhr, I gazed up at the sun. The sky behind it was nearly black, and with the wafting cirrus clouds flanking it like miniature galaxies, it appeared as though it was actually guarding the entrance to eternity.

I drove the rest of the way to the valley along the coast, reluctant to reach the inevitable. Unfortunately, doing so put me right in the middle of rush hour traffic in downtown Los Angeles. The traffic didn’t bother me, though, as I spent the time replaying all the memories recently made. Now that the day is finished, I will do the best I can to prepare for my return flight, hoping that my next visit here will be very soon in shaa Allah.

Allah is The Answer

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My middle son misses me. He called at all hours of the morning (the time difference did not help), crying and crying. I felt so helpless, being so far away, but I completely understood what it feels like for him. The best I could do was stay with him on the phone until he was able to calm down and put his mind on other things.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from today. It was important for me to find my mom’s old house, and the apprehension in what may lie ahead kept me from getting restful sleep. When it became apparent at 9 AM that there was not going to be any more opportunities for me to go back to bed before I had to check out, I went ahead and gritted my teeth and got ready for the day. I mapped out the street she lived on, then went to the nearby garage and retrieved my car. I drove from Hyde to Mission to 24th, and found a side street to park on.

Just as I remembered, Lilac St was nothing more than an alley. I wasn’t sure if I would remember her door by seeing it, but I was going to give it my best shot. I slowly walked toward the alley, uncertain if it was a good neighborhood or not. There were a lot of trendy places on Mission just around the corner, but alleys always seem kind of scary. I proceeded cautiously, and was relieved to see there weren’t many people around. Some guys were just taking a smoke break from the back door of the restaurants that lined the alley, and others were residents unloading things from their storage spaces.

The alley itself was colorfully painted with one graffiti mural after another. One one telephone pole were three faces of middle eastern looking men, and on the next were three women in hijab. Most of the alley was lined with sliding doors that led to either garages or storage areas. There were not many entry doors, and as I looked at each one I could not hone in on which might have been hers. What was clear was that this seemed to be an area where artists congregated, and that explained why she -with painting being a consuming passion of hers- would’ve chosen to live there.

I walked the entire length of the way searching for the impossible. I recalled that my brother had told me once that the building itself used to be a train station that was converted into living units, but none of the structures appeared to fit that description. When I reached the other end of the alley, I felt disappointed and lost. I turned back around, hoping that the alternate view might trigger a flash of memory to help me find what I was looking for, but that didn’t happen.

I returned to my car feeling defeated. This was something I felt I needed to do, and I couldn’t even do it. I sat in the driver’s seat and began weeping profusely. Something so simple, yet so elusive, can hurt so deeply.

“It’s only natural to want to have a mother in my life…”
Yes, it is.

“I didn’t deserve what happened…”
No, you didn’t.

“I didn’t do anything wrong!”
You couldn’t have.

The tears wouldn’t stop. The confusion burrowed deeper. The pain painted pictures before my eyes, and I hated it for being the very thing that was chaining me to the unhealthy habits I am struggling to break even now.

“Ya Allah, please show me how this loneliness, this constant loneliness that’s been a part of my life since birth, is really the best thing for me!”

I sat, trying to figure out a way forward. A way to heal and find peace from these deep scars. I kept thinking that finding my future was the answer, but the future is uncertain…..except for one thing: Islam.

Islam would be my way forward. Islam will help me find myself, and find my peace. It already has in so many ways, but the more I focus on it the more Allah will meet me where I need.

And so that’s where I wanted to go from that place, that empty alley which had no answers or comfort. I sent a message to a friend trying to find the way to the Muslims in San Francisco. While awaiting the response, I tried to find the information myself via Zabiha.com and Google. Both were inconclusive, so I was glad to get a reply with a general direction to move toward.

As it turned out, I ended up scouring the area I was pointed to block by block. I didn’t see any cluster of shops with signs in Arabic to indicate what I was looking for, so I thought I would just make due with popping into the nearby masjid to make dhuhr and from there go on my merry way. However, there was some type of event going on in that area, so the streets were being blocked off one by one. I couldn’t find a place to park by the masjid; in fact just getting out of the area and back toward the interstate was nearly impossible due to gridlock traffic and took almost an hour.

In the end, I drove to nearby Fremont to attend a zikr which was scheduled for this evening. I originally had planned not to go, but I felt like I needed something like that right now. I got into town and mapped the venue, which was located at a park. I decided to make my dhuhr there, and kill the time by eating a late lunch at a local halal restaurant. After that, I drove to the closest masjid and made asr, then returned to the park center for the night’s activities.

I am so glad I went. Being able to only focus on Allah and my iman was just what I needed, and it changed my state completely. Masha’Allah, they even served us a free dinner. The nasheeds lifted my spirits and I felt lighter than air after it was over. As I walked back out to my car, I looked up to see the wispy clouds sifting past a brilliantly shining full moon, beautifully set in the starry, cobalt sky. Alhamdulillah!

I located an affordable room for the night in town, which is where I am staying tonight. I like Fremont; it reminds me of the San Gabriel Valley where I spent half my childhood. In shaa Allah I will begin wending my way down the coast toward Southern California tomorrow. My trip will be coming to an end soon, so I hope I can make the most of these last opportunities toward self-discovery as I continue exploring the land I love.

Boots Made for Walking….Not!

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The day began at 4 AM, when I woke reluctantly. I spent the early morning hours writing and talking to my best friend overseas on the phone. I was not ready to start my day even after that, so I went back to bed and re-awakened when housekeeping knocked on my door.

I didn’t plan to spend all day sleeping, even though it was understandable that my jet lag and personal lack of biorhythms had finally exhausted me. I made my way to the shower in one of the shared bathrooms and made myself wake up fully. Before leaving, I shoved my prayer rug, wallet and kufs into the larger shoulder bag I had brought, hoping to find some better shoes before I got too far down the road. I grabbed my phone, trotted down the stairs and out into the sunny street where life had already begun hours before.

I began walking down Bush toward Market St. My plan was to begin at the UBH offices located there, then divine a course to follow from that point. When I reached Grant, I felt like my heart was going to tumble up and out of my throat. I saw the indelibly familiar Chinese lions and architecture that forged an entrance to what was presumably a section of Chinatown. It was the exact location that I stood at almost 20 years ago when I met my mother for the first time; where our photos together were taken. Overwhelmed and suddenly nauseated, but aching to connect with her somehow, I walked over there and just stood in that very place, looking down the hill as I would had I been getting that photo taken at that moment. I tried to picture her standing next to me- anything to ease the heartache that was pounding in my chest.

But she wasn’t there, and I was reminded again of what I am trying to do here. I needed to find a way through the pain of this loneliness; these unhealed wounds. I moved past that monument and into one of the stores believing surely I would find the shoes I needed there, and indeed I did. I walked out to a wooden bench gripping a $10 pair of black flats with rubber soles and elastic fabric. I tore off my heeled boots, stuffed them into my bag, and zipped on my kufs before working the new shoes over them. Perfect fit!

I waited a minute for the last of the nausea to subside and then arose to continue on. What a relief to be able to walk at a more comfortable pace (read: faster) as I scuttled down the hill. Coming up to Sansome I felt like I could just extend my arms and run, and somehow magically fly into the air to weave between the buildings like a hawk. It made me giddy to watch everyone coming and going…from the others on foot talking on their Bluetooths, to the bike messengers whipping to a stop in front of a business, to the impatiently honking cars trying to pass the slower moving buses.

I came to my destination, and looked all around. Now would be a good time to eat lunch, so I briefly pretended I already worked there and pinged my intuition for a direction to find it. I continued down Market just a little farther, and spied a small shop that advertised halal gyros- Bingo! I took my food to one of the small chrome tables situated outside on the sidewalk and spent another meal with my best text buddy. I sent her a picture of what I hoped would be my next place of employment, while making dua in my mind for the same.

After lunch I decided to make dhuhr, but I needed to find a place. Looking up and down the street I felt that continuing in the same direction I was going would bring me to what I was looking for. Sure enough, just a bit farther down was the Embarcadero. I checked my phone for Kiblah and laid my rug out on one of the grassy knolls there, not far from where a couple men were sleeping. I looped the straps of my shoulder bag around my ankle and made the salat efficiently, then arose to check out the piers across the road.

It was there that I called to mind a poem my sister had written…where she was standing on a pier, looking for love. She was actually born here, and a lot of feelings came up as I sat on the bench overlooking that bay. I had to write, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a glimpse of my future to come- working just down the way, living nearby, and frequently visiting the piers to write out my grief.

After about an hour I rose and scanned the area, noting there were apartments or condos nearby. I walked to them to write down their names for future research, even though they were likely higher priced because of their location near the water. Yet, one never knows what Allah can do. I walked back up Drumm toward Market, feeling I had a sufficient idea what was over that way. I wanted to check out the other side of Market, going away from the water front.

So off I went in that direction. When I reached Kearny, I remembered suddenly that I was in what was before today only a fictional location in my mind. Sure enough, I found myself standing right next to Lotta’s Fountain, although without any water I wouldn’t have readily recognized it without reading the placard on it. I looked all around, expecting imaginary characters to flash through the crowd. Unable to resist temptation, I decided to go ahead and continue my trek to Seventh…just in case they happened to be there waiting for me with a recently recovered bike.

I passed through a retail district that reminded me more of downtown Atlanta, with their name-brand stores and mass produced wares. I was not impressed, but it was clear that it was a tourist boon. I continued on and once I past that area, I felt the energy change and became more wary. Looking around I could tell the differences in the type of stores and clientele, and the smell of weed hit me every other intersection it seemed. Wherever I was, I didn’t think it was prudent to linger there, so I hustled myself down to my hare-brained destination. En route I passed the Asian man, marching in place between two sidewalk chess tables. I wondered if he was psychotic or just exercising.

When I reached Seventh, I saw the Hibernia Bank building standing alone with no one nearby. It was cordoned off and a huge flock of pigeons paced on its stairs. I walked over to them, expecting to instigate their massive exodus. Instead, they eyed me cautiously and shuffled somewhat, but didn’t make any efforts to escape. I laughed aloud at them, decided I could check this off my silly “to do” list, and abruptly turned to walk back down Market street the way I had come. The marching Asian was still in place when I passed him again.

I decided this time to go left on Kearny when I reached that intersection…perhaps there would be some other housing that would interest me in that area. I found that segment rather unremarkable, and checked the time. The afternoon was wearing on and I wouldn’t have much longer before Maghrib came in. I took another left on California when the adhan for asr shrilled into my ears. I didn’t expect to find a place to pray, and was debating about whether to return early to make it in the hotel room when I passed a small inner city playground right outside of Chinatown. I rounded the corner into one of the shops to buy a bottle of water for wudu, then returned to the small park to complete my obligations. I noticed, while I prayed, that I was standing next to a tree with beautiful violet blossoms. Their fallen petals littered the grass around my prayer rug, which strangely brought an ease to my heart.

I checked the time again as I was leaving that gem of a refuge, and decided I feasibly had enough time to make another trip to Swensen’s for a very worthy treat before returning to my room. I trekked up the murderous hill toward Hyde, stopping once to catch my breath and take in the lovely view of the Bay Bridge which seemed parallel to where I was standing. Once I reached Hyde I felt so carefree that I just began singing aloud to the song that was playing through my headphones:…if you can wait ’til I get home, then I swear to you, that we can make this last. If you can wait ’til I get home, then I swear come tomorrow this will all be in the past… I didn’t care who heard. I had to get home. This should be home.

As I approached Swensen’s, I wondered if perhaps I just happened to get lucky yesterday. What are the chances that all of their ice cream is that mind-blowing? Really good, actually. I decided to order another hot fudge sundae, this time with raspberry marble ice cream. I walked with it down to my red bench (Yes, it is my bench now), and about passed out from the way the succulent raspberry ribbon played with the sweet fudge in my mouth. There was no rush, no fear…just a delicious reprieve from an adventurous day.

Yet, as I sat there, I realized how lonely I still felt. As amazing as today was, and as much hope as I have, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone. I wanted to share moments like that with someone, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that I can make solitude my closest friend. I know better than to hold my breath for another marriage proposal ever coming from out of the blue, and I don’t foresee myself seeking a prospective spouse out anytime in the foreseeable future. How would this work? I needed friends here…maybe a roommate, which would provide two benefits in one. Things to think about, problems to solve. I finished my sundae reminding myself that I have found ways to find such solutions before, and I can do it again by Allah’s will.

Maghrib would be in soon, so I walked briskly back toward Bush. I kept singing as I went -…I can tell it’s what you want, you don’t want to be alone, you don’t want to be alone. And I can say it’s what you know, but you’ve known it the whole time, yeah you’ve known it the whole time…I made it inside the hotel foyer just minutes after the maghrib adhan. Returning to my room, I made maghrib and put my fingers back to work, sealing these memories for my eventual dissection and planning while the band plays on from their clandestine studio.

Until tomorrow, in shaa Allah…